Dark Fortress is in fact one of Germany’s greatest bands, and I can totally stand up for that statement. I discovered Dark Fortress about two years ago, when the album Eidolon just blew my mind. They released their sixth album Ylem in February this year, but haven’t made that much noise since, so I had a little chat with the lead guitar player and main writer V.Santura, to see what happens and also, or actually mainly, to present the band to you readers, and hopefully new fans.
What vision did they have with the band back then? What did they want to achieve when they started Dark Fortress?
- I can only speculate since I'm not an actual founding member. But generally, what's the reason behind the wish to become a musician and to start a band when you are young? It's the fascination, the passion for music. When you start you admire other musicians/bands and you want to create something that is like what your idols do. When you grow as a musician you need to make the next step and bring in your own note. But, yeah, when Dark Fortress started back in 1994, the main influence was definitely the Scandinavian black metal scene from the early nineties and the mysterious aura around that music and the wish to create something similar...
How did the name come up? It is, as I'm sure you've heard before, quite similar to a certain Norwegian band…
- There are so many smartasses on YouTube and Blabbermouth, that are so fucking proud of their profound knowledge of the Icelandic language, you won't believe it... Yeah... if you translate the name Dimmu Borgir into English language, it means something like Dark Cities or Dark Castle. So what?! Dark Fortress exist since 1994 and if one considers that fact, it's obvious that Dimmu Borgir didn't have any influence on our band name, because nobody gave a shit about this band back then. No offense, I respect them and it's a nice coincidence that I will finally meet them in a few days, since Triptykon are going to play a few shows together with them at the end of September. I'm curious how they will react, if I tell them, that my other band is called “Dark Fortress”, haha. But it's a good chance to clarify a few things.
But back to the actual question, how did the name come up? First I have to admit, that Dark Fortress is in fact not the uttermost original band name in the world, since there are dozens of bands by now that are called Dark something. But well, 16 years ago, that was another story... In my opinion a way more obvious influence for the band name is for example “Dark”throne or the slightly cheesy cover artwork of Satyricon's debut album “Dark Medieval Times”. Nevertheless I think that the image of a “dark fortress”, a huge ancient stronghold against your enemies, is a very strong image and that's the actual thought behind that name.
If it is possible, how would you describe the music of Dark Fortress? If people wonder what type of music you're doing, what would you answer?
- Describing music is like describing the taste of food, I pretty hard task, but I will try: Dark Fortress is first of all a metal band, with strong riffs, heavyness and a very dark overall mood to the songs. We try to channelize emotions and feelings, but we focus on the dark side, that's why I would still consider us as a black metal band.
Every album differs from eachother. Has it always been a thought behind that, to never make "the same album" again? What is your personal favourite and why? Do you all have different favourite albums in the group?
- It is in fact a conscious decision not to repeat ourselves constantly, we want to keep things interesting, for us and for our fans. Therefore it is also somehow a natural development: When we work on a new album we usually work very hard and focused on new songs during a period of a couple of months. Then the treadmill starts: recordings, mix, promotion, interviews and lots of boring stuff that doesn't leave you any space for being creative for a while. So between the single periods, in which an album is composed, there is sometimes a year or more in between. Because of that distance, you are maybe in a different mood than 1 ½ years before, your live has different circumstances, your influences are totally different as a person and songwriter, so it's natural that the albums differ. But nevertheless I think that we have a certain recognizable style and lots of trademarks that identify us.
I actually think, that each band member has a different favorite album... It depends on my mood, which of our albums I like most... Maybe Séance, I think it's the “deepest” album, on an emotional level. Therefore it's something like the unloved child in the family. When we released Séance, lots of our old school fans seemed to be disappointed about the album, but I still think it's perfectly exactly the way it should be, that's why it probably means even more to me.
Which album has become the most popular among the fans?
- That's a good question. There are still lots of people who love our third album “Stab Wounds” most. In my opinion, this album was the birth of our actual style, but it was more “accessible” then for example Séance or Ylem. But our most successful albums are in fact the newest releases Eidolon and Ylem, which proves that we are still doing well...or getting better with every album...
How does Dark Fortress work when you're creating new songs? Who is doing most of the music and where does the inspiration come from?
- Since our band members are spread over wide area (our drummer and singer live in Rotterdam, while the rest of the bands lives in the South of Germany), we can't rehearse regularly and write music together during band rehearsals. So 90% of the music is written at home and I don't have a problem with this working modus. In contrary, I prefer to get into myself and have no distractions and none around me, when I write songs. I actually need to be able to focus myself on the songwriting. I don't want to sit down after a long working day for one hour and work on a new song. That doesn't work for me. I need silence and need to get into a certain flow and mood to create music. A bit like a meditation, but not really. But if the circumstances are right, I can be a very fast songwriter and invent lots of ideas within a short time.
I can't really say where I get my inspiration from. Sometimes I just wait and watch what little bits of ideas are floating around in my cosmos and I just need to grab them. There is always something floating around, you just need to discover it, that's probably the key to creativity...
I write most of the music in Dark Fortress, but not everything. Our second guitar player always comes up with some killer riffs, usually not with complete songs and then we work on these ideas together. Also our singer is a great songwriter; in fact, he is a classical composer, but rather writes music for big orchestras then for Dark Fortress, haha. But he wrote like two songs on the last album and did some arrangements, too.
What drives me to write that kind of music? Well, maybe the fascination for the dark and the occult and the urge to get rid of some feelings. Writing music can have a cathartic effect.
Have you been touring a lot? What tour has been the most successful for Dark Fortress and which gig has been the best one in your opinion?
- Well... not really. In my opinion, Dark Fortress should have toured way more in the past and do so in the future. But I'm afraid that won't happen. It just makes me depressed sometimes when I look at how many good offers we already had to let pass, just because of odd circumstances or that someone didn't have time. We played a tour as support for Satyricon and Shining last December, which was amazing, but we should have done something like that 5 years ago. Also supporting Celtic Frost on their first shows after their comeback was a great thing, so great that I got assimilated by them, haha. I don't know if I can pick out a single gig and say, that this was the best show in our career, but among the best shows recently where definitely the shows in Paris or maybe Krakow in December. Sometimes you have a show in front of a big audience and you get amazing reactions and you still think that you sucked today, and sometimes you play in front of 40 people and still you have the feeling, that this was one of your best concerts. It was like that when we played in Vienna last time.
In which countries is it most likely to see Dark Fortress, aside from of course Germany?
- In the near future? Nowhere...
What's up with your webpage (www.thetruedarkfortress.com)? Do you only have MySpace nowadays?
- Well, we realized that we had more clicks on MySpace within 6 months than on the official webpage in 6 years. And if you have a serious webpage, you really have to take care of maintaining it, always have it up-to-date. Nobody in the band has any knowledge of HTML or stuff like that, at some point we just got tired of it and decided just to have a MySpace page only. Like most bands actually...
What is your vision now? Where is Dark Fortress going and do the band have any certain plans for the nearest future?
- At the moment, Dark Fortress is having a little break. With the last album Ylem we played a tour with Satyricon and Shining, as I said before and another smaller headlining tour with Serpentcult from Belgium and Farsot from Germany. After that some of us had to focus on other bands or projects. We will play our next shows in January next year. We released 6 albums by now following a relatively constant release rhythm of about 2 years, maybe we will take a bit more time with the next album.
Tales From Eternal Dusk (2001)
Profane Genocidal Creations (2003)
Stab Wounds (2004)
Century Media Records
Footnote: V.Santura was picked out as live guitarist for Celtic Frost's tour in 2007, and is now in Tom G. Warrior's new project Triptykon.